Witness says ride operators at fault in Six Flags New England death

Posted Thursday, May 6, 2004 8:31 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A woman sitting behind Stanley Mordarsky Saturday on Six Flags New England's Superman tried to hold on to Mordarsky when he fell out of the ride to his death on its final turn. Witnesses say that the ride operators did not check restraints after a shuffling of seats, and that Mordarsky's lap bar was not pushed down to its fully closed position.

Read more from The Hartford Courant.

In related news, Six Flags Darien Lake will not open its Superman roller coaster until the investigation in New England has been completed. Read more from WOKR/Rochester.

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 8:33 AM
While it doesn't make it any less tragic, it sure is starting to appear that this was human error. This is why I was hoping people wouldn't speculate. It certainly seems that the restraint design was a non-issue.
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Thursday, May 6, 2004 8:37 AM
QUOTE "Francis Letro, Dwaileebe's attorney said, "These bodies are moving through the air turning at sharp degrees 50 to 90 to 100 miles per hour. The injuries continue on a day-to-day basis." "

Mr. Letro, Can you please translate that to ENGLISH?!

Glad to hear that thus far it looks like it was human error in some ways....but still sad that this accident happened at all. Obviously then it was not the restraint or the person riding the coaster. His handicap must also have been a non-issue.

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 8:39 AM
This is the second time in two days I have read similar stories from two different witnesses. The final report is going to make for some interesting reading. I really want to know what the ride operators side of the story is. Particularly after reading this news article.
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Thursday, May 6, 2004 9:10 AM
I feel so bad for that woman who was sitting behind him. What a gut-wrenching ordeal for her. It makes me sick to think about it.

I would still like to see clarification on the ADA as it relates to people with disabilities riding any rides...not just coasters. When I was a ride operator this was one situation I hated more than any other and I think the policies need more teeth. The same can be said for pregnant women. At Geauga Lake there was a woman who was 9 months pregnant that came and rode coasters to try and induce labor. The park had no legal position to deny her a ride. Before the day was over she had given birth on a picnic table with the aid of a park nurse. What would have happened though if that baby had been harmed?

It is just tragic that someone had to die when it appears the entire situation might have easily been prevented. Not to be callous but I wonder what the real economical cost will be to Six Flags now? More than if they had another operator or two up on the platform? More than if the trains were designed with a "Star Tours" type safety check to make sure all restraints were property secured?

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 9:10 AM
I can understand that the fault of this probably lies in human error, but what I can't understand is why common sense didn't take over. There have been times when ride ops didn't check my lap bar, but common sense took over and I secured myself, which included pulling my lap bar down to a secure place... not half way up. The guy had ridden this ride plenty of times before and should have known the lap bar wasn't in a secure position. I've never ridden SFNE's Superman, but I would assume that the rides forces would pull the lap bar down to a secure place during the course of the ride, unless he was holding the bar up. SFA's Superman stapled me on the first drop so I would think that the restraints are allowed to go lower through out the ride.
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Thursday, May 6, 2004 9:16 AM
I know the official report is still due and, untill that is published, comments are still speculative, but it's Interesting that the WOKR report picks up on a theme that many of us pointed to:

Letro said, "They hire summer workers, mostly untrained kids, and the plan is to move as many passengers through the turnstile as possible."

Out of fairness to the ride ops, each park should publish very clear and unambigious rules relating to the application of restraints that are visible to the general public in the loading station. This way ride ops decisions would not be seen as unfair or arbitrary, but motivated purely by the constaints imposed by the design of the ride itself. Coupled with a "all ride ops decisions are final" notice would mean that there would be no excuse for any intimidation on the part of the would-be rider.

These may "just be kids", but they are charged with a big responsibility, which they must perform under pressure. The parks (and indeed the public) must support them in their jobs.

Best,

B

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 9:40 AM
Well, "kids" are the people preparing your food at McDonald's and you are more likely to get killed eating a raw burger than riding a rollercoaster. I am sure there is more to the story than we know right now and it appears it will refelct poorly on training techniques, staffing leves, or a combination of both.
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Thursday, May 6, 2004 9:40 AM
Was his seatbelt on?
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Thursday, May 6, 2004 9:41 AM
First off, this is all SPECULATION about the restraints not being properly checke and secured by the ops... but IF this is in fact true...

Why do I have the suspicion that there will be some who will try to steer this in the direction of "rider error". Rampage has already stated "There have been times when ride ops didn't check my lap bar, but common sense took over and I secured myself, which included pulling my lap bar down to a secure place... not half way up. The guy had ridden this ride plenty of times before and should have known the lap bar wasn't in a secure position."

Why is it that when ever a tragedy like this happens at a park so many are so quick to blame anything but the design or, if what witnesses say in this case is true, the park or Ops? Why do somany automatically assume that the Human Error always falls on the part of the rider?

In light of the following post, let me add something here:

How does Rider Error trump Operator Error? Should the Rider check their own restraints. Absolutely (I always do). However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the Operators. It is the job and responsibility of the Operator to make sure that all riders are safely secured before dispatching the train.

I myself have been on coasters before where I thought all was secured correctly. I sat down in the B&M seat, pulled the OTSR down over my head and connected the belt to the bottom of it. The operator came by in his final check, tugged on the OTSR and saw that was secure. He then tugged on the belt and it fell open. I had THOUGHT I connected it correctly, but I did not have it pushed far enough up to make it "click". While I thought I was secure, the Operators final check found that not was as it should have been and the "problem" was corrected. (and before anyone says anything, Yes, I know that the belts on B&M OTSR's are not technically necessary. But they are a designed restraint that I, as a rider, had thought I had properly secured.)

*** This post was edited by SLFAKE 5/6/2004 9:57:00 AM ***

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 9:43 AM
I love how according to the attorney, a person is killed every day on coasters going 90 and 100 mph ... that's a lot of deaths just on ToT, S:TE, TTD, MF, and Dodonpa! Geez, 5 coasters worldwide in the 90+ mph range that are killing a person a day (including at least two that aren't even open yet!). Roller Coasters are taking over the world ...

But on topic, I think this more than anything will motivate Six Flags to make good on their claims of better training for their ops and better management. But, again, as was said earlier, what idiot who has ever ridden a coaster trusts the ride ops to check the bar before going out the gates? Pushing your own bar down is really *not* that big a deal. And if that woman behind him really did notice that his bar wasn't down before they left the station, why the hell didn't she scream out something, either to the ops, or to the guy to push his own bar down? Once again, no one's responsible for their own safety ...

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 9:59 AM
Well, I am not as quick to say the ride ops shouldn't be accountable. They are the ones trained in all aspects of the ride. A guest is not. Sure, most people would be able to pull down a lab bar or buckle a seat belt but even on an airplane the flight attendants walk through the aisles and double check to make sure everyone is fastened in.

SLFAKE, it seems you didn't read the article. Even the park seems to be leaning toward operator error.

Impulsive...you say, "what idiot who has ever ridden a coaster trusts the ride ops to check the bar...?" What about children? Guests with mental disabilities? The bottom line is the park, through the ride operators, are responsible for making sure everyone is secured properly before the ride starts. Now, if you take it upon yourself to mess with the restraints after the ride started you are then assuming some responsibility. If you stand up or whip out a camera that you were hiding you have assumed some responsibility.

Then Impulsive, you go on to start placing blame on the woman who tried to save the guy? I am a fan of parks and the industry but I am not going to blindly defend them. I sure as hell am not going to blame another guest.

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 10:17 AM
I wasn't speaking about the official stance of the park... just about the theories posted here.

As for not readint the article... I would if I could. However, the Hartford Courant requires registration. I've been trying to get registered since Monday and have had no luck.

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 10:21 AM
Jeff said:

While it doesn't make it any less tragic, it sure is starting to appear that this was human error. This is why I was hoping people wouldn't speculate. It certainly seems that the restraint design was a non-issue.

Funny, State investigators found the restrains on Perilous Plunge to be faulty. Intamin said it was victims weight as is said in this article below. Sandor Kernacs also states that they know accidents will happen but we have to determin what is acceptable

http://www.ctnow.com/hc-coaster0504.artmay04,0,6928238.story

Chuck, just pointing out that we don't know anything for certain yet and four ejections from simular restraints is a issue to me despite what any one person says..*** This post was edited by Charles Nungester 5/6/2004 10:24:16 AM ***

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 10:28 AM
SLFAKE I agree with the point about it ultimately being the responsiblity of the operator to insure a safe ride, but I myself, would never put 100% of my trust in a ride op. I am solely responsible for my life in the end. The guy had ridden it numerous times before safely and therefore he knew what was an acceptable position for his lapbar. I think that the ops should have at least noticed the height of the lap bar above his stomach and corrected it, but in the end HE should have known that that wasn't a safe position and fixed it himself. And the other point I say again, doesn't the force of the ride press the restraint down? If this is the case and it didn't come down any lower, something was preventing the lapbar from lowering.
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Thursday, May 6, 2004 10:29 AM
I was thinking when this happened this might be the case.when the ride op has to break routine (moving people around,moving wheelchair from near train) there is a possabilty of human error.That and the fact that six flags made ride ops at every park sign that they are properly trained.That is because the park is only responseable for training ride op not if he messed up the lawers won't sue ride op unless he is independtly weathy they may include him with the park but they won't go after him alone.They will go for the deep pockets.
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Thursday, May 6, 2004 10:41 AM
When there is a break in the loading routine, I've always thought that the proper procedure was to recheck all riders before diapatching the ride. Certainly, I've seen this done many times.
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Thursday, May 6, 2004 10:44 AM
Kevin, it doesn't matter what the rideops sign. They are a employee of the company.

It happened on their property, on their ride, which should be properly operated by their properly trained staff.

If any one of those pieces is "at fault" then it is the company's liability.

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 10:45 AM
Lol...what I think Kevin was trying to say, Rampage, was that when a disabled guest has to be loaded up, the operator's normal routine of checking gets messed up, and the possibility for error opens up. Granted, the ride op should be on top of his game at all times (i know from personal experience being one) but when this, and then reported "seat shuffling" go on, i can see how it's possible for the ride op to get a bit messed up. But isn't there supposed to be more than one ride op? Aren't there usually two to four ops up there in the station? And how could they all have missed it?

As for me, my eyes would*** This post was edited by BigJim4Life 5/6/2004 10:46:31 AM ***

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Thursday, May 6, 2004 10:45 AM
Rampage, you contradicted yourself in that post so many times I think you might really be John Kerry.

Kevin38, I couldn't understand most of what you said but one point was a good one. When there is a break in routine on a ride that creates an opportunity for error. Because of that, the people checking restraints should be only doing that. They shouldn't have to worry about checking heights, stowing wheelchairs, etc. I know of an accident on the Geauga Lake Big Dipper where a guest with a disability trying to depart a train was a contributing factor in the ensuing crash. All of the fuss over getting him out of the train led to a signal being missed that the other train was closing in on the station. This was back when the brakes were manual. In hindsight there probably were not enough ride operators to properly delegate responsibilities.*** This post was edited by wahoo skipper 5/6/2004 10:47:06 AM ***

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